What Can Washington Nationals, Fans Expect from Bryce Harper?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Another player who could signify the Washington Nationals‘ 2013 season pretty well is Bryce Harper. After a strong rookie campaign that saw Harper win the National League Rookie of the Year and get an All-Star Game nod, Harper’s 2013 was slightly derailed by a crash into a wall in Los Angeles that saw him hurt hit knee, which caused him to miss roughly a month. Regardless, Harper still finished his sophomore season with some positives. Harper improved his slash line from his rookie year, hitting .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs, and was also able to improve his walk totals year to year while cutting down his strikeouts at the same time.

Going into 2013, many thought Harper was primed for an enormous year, while many even believed that he had a pretty good chance of winning the MVP award at the ripe old age of 20 years old. Sure, his defense took a small step back because of a lack of aggressive play from the wall crash, but Harper was still able to put up solid numbers for a player many had higher hopes for. Harper is now 21, and many feel the same way they felt going into 2013: that Harper is going to have a monster age-21 season for a Nationals team many believe will bounce back.

With that in mind, what can be expected from Harper in 2014?

Well, first off, it all depends on where manager Matt Williams wants to hit Harper in the Nationals’ lineup. Williams has gone on record saying that he does not want to tone down Harper’s playing style, but rather tweak his game slightly so as to tap into his full potential, comparing Harper to a stallion. Williams wants to put Harper in a position in the lineup that will allow him to steal bases, and with so many seasoned hitters in the Nationals’ lineup, it will be interesting to see where Williams hits Harper. Harper’s old manager, Davey Johnson, batted Harper primarily in the two hole, where Harper has seen some consistent success, hitting .267/.336/.471 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs in 501 career at-bats batting in the second spot in the order.

Harper has not really hit in many other spots in the order, as he has been considered a top-of-the-order bat since he was drafted, but another spot Harper could hit in is the third spot in the order. Harper has hit his second most home runs in the third spot in the lineup, batting .266/.378/.498 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 267 career at-bats in the three spot in the lineup. Of course, with names like Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the lineup, as well as Anthony Rendon having success in the two hole, it will be interesting to see where Williams mixes and matches all of them up.

Harper could be poised for a huge year, and he has been able to live up to expectations pretty well, especially since many believed Harper has been poised for a big year since he came up in 2011. However, it’s pretty safe to assume year three could be the year where Harper finally explodes. He is entering his third season and has shown improvement year to year in his peripheral numbers, as he was able to push his walks upward as well as cut down his strikeouts. With that in mind, it would be pretty safe to expect some solid numbers and steady improvement; perhaps something like this: .280/.380/.510 with 34 home runs and 112 RBIs.

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